In evolving startup ecosystems, access to mentors that can add value to a startups journey is extremely limited. Even more so in the early stages of a startup. When a startup does get access to a mentors time, one has to ensure the best value. Value maybe just validation of the overall idea, throw some color on the opportunity, review the market segments and the go-to-markets, review the near term plans and priorities, or one of many other. Three aspects are important. Who is the mentor. What is the relevant background. Why do you want to meet. And what do you expect to realize.
WHO. Now a mentor maybe a successful entrepreneur, a domain expert, an investor, an incubator, a potential customer or any other. And value from each is very different. The first thing the startup must be very conscious of is why is that mentors time needed. What relevant perspective is the mentor bringing in. What do you expect to get from that time. This is very important given that often the first meeting with a mentor is very short and unless the startup interests and excites the mentor there are definitely no further meetings coming by.
WHY. WHAT. When asking for time need to make sure exactly what you want from the mentor. Establish the relevant perspective or background of the mentor clearly. Need to clearly state what you would like realized in the meeting. And of course, briefly talk about what you are doing and present state or challenges you are dealing with.
HOW. In any mentor interaction, startup MUST understand that the value is in letting the mentor speak and listen. So other than explain what you are doing and maybe share some of the challenges you are needing advise on, most of the time you must let the mentor speak. And startup must just listen. As much as possible.
- One Non goal which many startups don’t fully appreciate is that in a mentoring meeting you don’t have to convince the mentor. You don’t have to get the mentor to agree with anything you say. You have to share your idea an d any related information, only so far as needed to help the mentor understand what you are doing. When mentor disagrees, that is extremely useful input. Don’t scuttle it by arguing and completely missing the point. Just need to listen to what the mentor is saying. Make a note and then figure out remedial action later. Maybe your understanding was incomplete. Maybe articulation was poor. Maybe there were gaps in your thinking. Maybe you did miss some market assumptions or made incorrect assumptions. Just look for these signals. This is much more important than trying to “convince” the mentor.
In this whole process a clear pitch is extremely important. That highlights the idea crux, the market opportunity, the gap, how compelling, how the startup is filling the gap, size of the unserved gap, the present status and the projections.